Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Scenes from Boston-OCD Conference-Day 1-Post 3

The Boston Westin Waterfront. This year's
Conference location. A beautiful hotel and
a great spot for the conference.

The view across the street from the hotel

Enjoying our time together. Notice
our Boston sweatshirts!

The Boston waterfront - near the hotel.

A gorgeous summer day in the city.

Some Of My Favorite People-OCD Conference-Day 1-Post 2

I walk through the hotel hallways and pass hundreds of people. Many of them are laughing and talking, rushing to and fro. I see almost no evidence of compulsions or any manifestation of OCD. Yet, I know better. These are people that have suffered. Terribly. I am working hard to stop from weeping at that thought as I sit here in Grand Ballroom B of the Westin Boston Waterfront, while waiting for the beginning of the next workshop. It is heartbreaking and simultaneously inspiring, because this group of people does not give up, even in the face of tremendous challenge. Many of them are here to learn, to grow, and to advocate on behalf of their fellow sufferers. And while OCD is grotesque, the spirit of the people that have gathered here this weekend is beautiful.

Being OCD At The OCD Conference-OCD Conference-Day 1-Post 1

Sigh. I put together a great video of our ride in to Boston this morning for the Annual OCD Conference. And I deleted it accidentally. Because I was double checking it because my OCD was telling me that maybe I unintentionally filmed something inappropriate. Of course I didn't! Ah but such is life with OCD. Maybe it's for the best. Wifi is a bit spotty here and vlogging is more stressful. So while you won't be seeing my smiling face this weekend, I will be posting throughout to give you a little taste of the conference. So stay tuned - I'll be back!!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Misnomer of "Pure O"

Have you ever heard of "Pure O"? It's a term used to describe a type of OCD where the sufferer has no compulsions, but only obsessions. Obsessions are the unwanted, and often frightening thoughts that enter a person's mind, and they can cause an incredible amount of distress. Compulsions are what a person does to try to either get rid of or neutralize the terrifying obsessions - like washing their hands or turning the light switch off and on multiple times. (For a broader, but brief, explanation of the basics of OCD, including more detail on obsessions and compulsions, please see my tab entitled "So, What Is OCD?".) Many people use the term "Pure O" to describe themselves if they are consumed with horrible obsessions and they appear to have no compulsions. For example, Scrupulosity is a sub-type of OCD that at times is placed under the category of "Pure O." People with intrusive thoughts are commonly labeled "Pure O," as well.

After speaking with many OCD sufferers over the years, including several who consider themselves "Pure O," I am convinced that the term "Pure O" is not accurate. I have come to the conclusion that every OCD sufferer has compulsions of some type. Many times, the compulsions will only be mental, and because they are not physical, the sufferer (and often their therapist, if he or she is not properly trained or has limited experience with OCD) will not recognize that these compulsions exist. Moreover, if you look very closely, I suspect that most of these people also have at least some physical compulsions as well.

One of the reasons that I cringe every time I hear the term "Pure O" is that it can (incorrectly, in my opinion) reinforce the idea that the person does not have compulsions. And more importantly, it may give the idea that ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) would not be effective for this type of OCD. I have heard more than one sufferer express their dismay that ERP won't work for them, because they think that they have no compulsions to attack with ERP.

First, it is important to recognize the compulsions. If a person tries to keep on thinking about something in a certain way, or the "right" way - that is probably a mental compulsion. Re-thinking things over and over again, to try to remember what really happened, is probably a mental compulsion. Avoiding looking at someone or something, or looking away from someone or something, because it is triggering is - yep, you guessed it, probably a compulsion (and I would say that qualifies as a physical compulsion). Leaving a room because something or someone in that room is triggering - physical compulsion. Praying over and over again to get it just right - mental compulsion. Having to be seated a certain way or in a certain position while compulsively praying - physical compulsion. Confessing things to people over and over again to reduce anxiety - physical compulsion. Avoiding going to church because it triggers fears - physical compulsion.

Essentially, anything a person actively does (mentally or physically) to minimize the pain and anxiety of the scary thoughts, is a compulsion. If the patient and therapist can identify the compulsions and separate them from the obsessions, then a plan of action can be taken to create and tailor specific ERPs to fight the OCD.

I truly believe "Pure O" sufferers are absolutely not beyond help and that there is hope for this type of OCD too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's Time!

                                    Photo Courtesy of Int'l OCD Foundation

It's time once again to register for the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation Annual Conference! It is being held in Boston, Massachusetts (why that's practically my backyard!) on 7/31-8/2. So, of course, Jim and I will be there and we hope to see you too. There are also some pre-conference events taking place on 7/30, and in addition, there is a special two day intensive CBT treatment program available on 7/29-30, with another program on 8/2-3. This special program is a great opportunity for conference attendees who can't find treatment in their home area.

I love seeing the historical
Boston architecture juxtaposed
against the new.
I have already attended 3 conferences, and I've learned something new at each. From what I understand, it is the only conference of its kind, bringing patients, researchers, and treatment providers together all at once. It is a unique opportunity to meet (and learn from) some of the very people who are working hard to bring hope and healing to the OCD community and I highly recommend attending. In addition, Boston is a great place to visit and explore.

See you in Beantown!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" - Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan

Ever since I gave birth to my own child almost 30 years ago, I've often thought that it was like an actual piece of my heart left my body and was now walking around in the form of my son. I think it is not a stretch to imagine that is how Janet Singer feels about her own children. I like to think of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" as a love story, featuring the selfless love a parent has for a suffering and hurting child. In this case, it is the story of Janet and Gary Singer, and their college student son, Dan, who was struggling with severe OCD.

I was excited, and a bit nervous, when Janet asked me to read and then review her book. I was nervous because, well, what if I didn't like the book? Phew. No worries there. I love this book. I mean, I really love this book. It is very well written and flows easily through what was probably one of the most painful years of the Singer family's lives. I had a hard time putting the book down and read it in its entirety in a handful of sittings.

At times, I longed to hear more about Dan's obsessions and what the thoughts were behind his particular compulsions. However, I began to suspect that perhaps Janet was protecting his privacy, or maybe she was purposely not making those things the focus of her memoir. After all, the content of obsessions and any particular compulsions are really not the important thing. No matter how you slice it, it's still OCD, and OCD, regardless of each person's individual particulars, gets treated in essentially the same fashion: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

What Janet did focus on was her and Gary's attempts to help their son navigate through the mental health care system so he could find healing and hopefully, a return to a more "normal" life. What a journey that was! From incompetent doctors, to improper medication, and through the difficult, but effective, treatment of ERP, Janet and Gary were there the whole time to advocate for and encourage Dan. At one point, they even picked up and moved their entire lives so they could be close to Dan when he returned to college. It ended up being a very wise decision.

"Overcoming OCD" also has a co-author, Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D. Throughout the book, Dr. Gillihan adds thoughtful and informative commentary abut OCD, and more importantly, treatment, including ERP and medication. His input is spot-on and adds a critically important component to the book. These are not throwaway or filler remarks. They are filled with solid information that sufferers and their families can use to guide them forward through the maze of battling OCD.

Lastly, there is a "Resources" section at the end of the book listing helpful organizations, treatment centers, and other books. I always appreciate it when an author is considerate enough to include that type of information.

After finishing the book, I was left with a few thoughts:

1. Would I be as selfless if my own son needed me in this way? Oh I sure hope so!

2. It is absolutely crucial that family members advocate for a loved one who is ill and suffering, especially if the illness (physical or mental) causes them to have a decline in their ability to make good decisions for their own health.

3. Trust my instincts. I must do the homework and the research about the illness so that I can make informed and educated decisions, but at the end of the day, I need to trust my instincts.

"Overcoming OCD" is a big win for me, and I will gladly recommend it, along with my long beloved other favorite OCD memoir, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat" by Jeff Bell.

"Ovecoming OCD," ISBN 978-1-4422-3944-9, is now available in hardcover, coming in at 206 pages, and it is published by Rowman & Littlefield. It is also available for Kindle!

My only compensation was a free copy of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" from the publisher, in exchange for my honest book review.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm Waiting

Thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughtful comments on my previous post. It so warmed my heart and reminded me of God's love and care. I'm really struggling while I'm in this time period but I know God is working behind the scenes. And I just need to wait on Him to show me what to do and what decisions to make. There are Bible verses that talk about waiting on the Lord and I never really understood them, until it was explained to me what it meant to "wait" on the Lord. It's not a passive, hanging around until He does something. It's waiting - kind of like how a restaurant server waits upon customers - responding to and fulfilling their requests. We are to wait, as in serve, upon the Lord. So I'm desperately trying to do that right now. I'm not always very successful. I definitely don't always have the right attitude. And peace is mostly still eluding me. But I'm going to keep trying. Because I know that at just the right time, God will make His path for me known.

For several years I've loved the song "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller. I find it no small coincidence that last evening, while I was really struggling with panic and depression, as we were channel surfing, we passed the movie "Fireproof" literally just as this beautiful song was beginning to play. Jim stopped and let it play out for me so I could be ministered by it. And the tears flowed. I know many of you are experiencing tough times now. Just last week, Tina, of "Bringing Along OCD" expressed similar struggles with waiting for things to happen. I'm hoping this might speak to her and to you too.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 KJV